47 Remembering Joe Henderson

Conrad Herwig

Joe Henderson was likely the most important tenor saxophonist to come out of the 60s. Possessing a big distinctive tone, he brought gravitas to every setting in which he played. He also left a catalog of compelling compositions including several that have become standards, such as Inner Urge or Recorda-Me whose mastery is required for today’s improvising musicians. To illustrate the continuing power of these fine tunes, this hour of Jazz at 100 Today! will feature recent versions of Henderson’s memorable works featuring some of the greatest current players.

Between 1963 and 1966, Joe Henderson appeared on twenty-seven Blue Note releases, five as a leader, so it was only appropriate that when Blue Note celebrated their 70th anniversary and put together an all-star group of young players with a repertoire of classic hard bop tunes from the catalog, they would feature a Joe Henderson composition. The band of Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Steve Wilson on alto and flute, Ravi Coltrane on tenor, Bill Charlap on piano, Peter Bernstein on guitar, Peter Washington on bass, and Lewis Nash on drums tackle Inner Urge on their 2009 release Mosaic: A Celebration Of Blue Note.

In 2012, Conrad Herwig assembled an all star band to record The Latin Side of Joe Henderson, of which Dan Bilawski wrote on AllAboutJazz, “So what makes The Latin Side Of Joe Henderson different from trombonist Conrad Herwig’s previous Latin Side albums? Well, for starters, Herwig played with Henderson for several years, an experience which gave him great insight into the music and the man who made it. Then there’s the material itself. Henderson’s music, more so than that of previous Latin Side honorees like Herbie Hancock or John Coltrane, is tailor-made for this type of project, as some of the songs already lean toward the Latin side…”

The Conrad Herwig Octet had a front line of Alex Sipiagin on trumpet, Conrad Herwig on trombone, Joe Lovano on tenor, and Robbie Cuber on baritone, with Bill O’Connell on piano, Ruben Rodriguez on bass, Robby Ameen on drums, and Richie Flores on percussion. Joe Lovano offers a fiery solo on Henderson’s tune Afro-Centric.

Inner Urge. The Blue Note 7
(Nicholas Payton-tp, Steve Wilson-as/fl, Ravi Coltrane-ts, Bill Charlap-p, Peter Bernstein-g, Peter Washington-b, Lewis Nash-d). From Mosaic: A Celebration Of Blue Note. Blue Note. 2009.
Afro-Centric. Conrad Herwig Octet
(Alex Sipiagin-tp, Conrad Herwig-tb, Joe Lovano-ts, Robbie Cuber-bs, Bill O’Connell-p, Ruben Rodriguez-b, Robby Ameen-d, Richie Flores-per). From The Latin Side of Joe Henderson. Half Note. 2014.

In 1964, Joe Henderson recorded Serenity on one of the great hard bop records of the 60s, In ’N’ Out, with Kenny Dorham, McCoy Tyner, Richard Davis and Elvin Jones. On pianist Noah Haidu’s fine 2017 release, Infinite Distances, he recorded his version featuring an appropriately gentle passage by Jon Irabagon on soprano sax in a front line with trumpeter Jeremy Pelt.

We will hear A Shade of Jade from the SFJazz Collective with the amazing front line of Avishai Cohen on trumpet, Robin Eubanks on trombone, Miguel Zenon on alto, and David Sanchez on tenor plus Warren Wolf on vibes, Edward Simon on piano, Matt Penman on bass, and Obed Calvaire on drums. Every year since 2004, SFJAZZ has assembled a band of eight prominent players to workshop and then perform a repertoire dedicated to the compositions of a major figure in the music. The players change over time and the 2014 assembly performing the music of Joe Henderson was a particularly good one. Their version of A Shade of Jade was arranged by pianist Edward Simon featuring a sparkling solo by vibraphonist Warren Wolf.

Serenity. Noah Haidu Sextet
(Jeremy Pelt-flh/tp, Jon Irabagon-ss/ts, Sharel Cassity-as, Noah Haidu-p, Ariel Alejandro de la Portilla-b, John Davis-d). From Infinite Distances. Cellar Live. 2017.
A Shade of Jade. SFJazz Collective
(Avishai Cohen-tp, Robin Eubanks-tb, Miguel Zenon-as, David Sanchez-ts, Warren Wolf-vib, Edward Simon-p, Matt Penman-b, Obed Calvaire-d). From The Music of Joe Henderson and Original Compositions. SFJAZZ. 2014.

Let’s return to the SFJazz Collective for their interpretation of the classic Recorda-Me as arranged by altoist Miguel Zenon with a lovely solo by trumpeter Avishai Cohen. Recorda-Me first appeared on Henderson’s debut as a leader, Page One, perhaps his greatest title in the 60’s. He recorded it again on his Big Band record of 1996.

Conrad Herwig arranged the tune Mamacita for his Latin Side of Joe Henderson featuring Joe Lovano on tenor, Alex Sipiagin on trumpet and Herwig on trombone. Mamacita debuted on Henderson’s 1967 disc, The Kicker.

Young alto sax player Markus Howell made a strong debut with his 2019 disc Get Right! On Audiophile Audition, Jeff Know wrote, “Lovers of classic hard bop, with a heavy dose of the Blue Note vibe from the 1960s, will relive it, when you hear this “feel good” music being played by modern millennium jazz musicians… like trumpeter, Joe Magnarelli, trombonist, Michael Dease, and a tight rhythm section of pianist, Art Hirahara, bassist Rodney Whitaker, and drummer, Luther Allison. Magnarelli and Dease are at the top of their game, and Markus fits right in with a sweet [alto] tone… Out of the Night from Joe Henderson’s Page One, … is a minor blues that would fit in as a movie or situation comedy opening theme.”

Recorda-Me. SFJazz Collective
(Avishai Cohen-tp, Robin Eubanks-tb, Miguel Zenon-as, David Sanchez-ts, Warren Wolf-vib, Edward Simon-p, Matt Penman-b, Obed Calvaire-d). From The Music of Joe Henderson and Original Compositions. SFJAZZ. 2014.
Mamacita. Conrad Herwig Octet
(Alex Sipiagin-tp, Conrad Herwig-tb, Joe Lovano-ts, Robbie Cuber-bs, Bill O’Connell-p, Ruben Rodriguez-b, Robby Ameen-d, Richie Flores-per). From The Latin Side of Joe Henderson. Half Note. 2014.
Out of the Night. Markus Howell Sextet
(Joe Magnarelli-tp, Michael Dease-tb, Markus Howell-as, Art Hirahara-p, Rodney Whitaker-b, Luther Allison-d). From Get Right! Posi-Tone. 2019

From his debut on Kenny Dorham’s Una Mas in 1963 through his own Porgy and Bess in 1997, Joe Henderson participated in an almost uncountable number of landmark recordings. Throughout, he proved a compelling composer as well as a formidable soloist and left behind a string of jazz classics.


May, Chris. (2009, January 6). AllAboutJazz. The Blue Note 7: Mosaic: A Celebration Of Blue Note Records. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/mosaic-a-celebration-of-blue-note-records-the-blue-note-7-blue-note-records-review-by-chris-may.php

Bilawsky, Dan. (2014, September 2). AllAboutJazz. Conrad Herwig: The Latin Side Of Joe Henderson. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/the-latin-side-of-joe-henderson-conrad-herwig-half-note-records-review-by-dan-bilawsky.php

Wolff, Carlo. (2017, April). Downbeat. Noah Haidu, Infinite Distances. https://downbeat.com/reviews/detail/infinite-distances

Harris, George W. (2016, February 2). Republic of Jazz. SFJazz Collective – The Music of Joe Henderson & Original Compositions (2015). http://republicofjazz.blogspot.com/2016/02/sfjazz-collective-music-of-joe.html

Know, Jeff. (2019, July 2). Audiophile Audition. Markus Howell – Get Right! – Posi-Tone Records. https://www.audaud.com/markus-howell-get-right-posi-tone-records/

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